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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Modern Family: "Fizbo"

Illustration for article titled iModern Family/i: Fizbo
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My best birthday party ever was when I was six or seven years old.  My mother and grandmother transformed our entire basement into the Emerald City from The Wizard of Oz, completed with handpainted yellow brick road.  I will never give my kids a birthday party that good; as a matter of fact, they'll be darn lucky ever to have a birthday party all to themselves, since their birthdays are only six days apart.  And I feel the pressure that led to tonight's family gathering at the emergency room.  Oh yes — there will be crossbows and rock walls in my future.  Guilt is a powerful motivator.

Phil and Claire let guilt over Luke's perpetually-overlooked birthday motivate them right into the kitchen-sink approach to the world's most awesome birthday party.  (Note to my kids: If you want a lot of neat stuff at your party, just tell me you could use a belt, then change your mind because "the extension cord works pretty good.")  Claire remembers making crafts at a party in her youth and starts planning her comb sheath making activity.  (Phil: "You've combined the two things kids love most: combs and sheaths.")  But Phil has the rock wall hauled in, rents a bouncy castle, sets up a zip line across the yard, and begs the jungle lady to include more dangerous reptiles in her act.

Jay is determined to ignore Luke's legendary clumsiness ("He pokes himself in the eye every time he uses a straw," Gloria objects) so he can be the coolest relative in the room by giving the birthday boy a crossbow.  But Manny has his eye on another guest, and asks Jay how to make a move.  "You're going to be the funny one," Jay advises, but Manny flubs his stock of jokes, even forgetting to interrupt as the interrupting cow.  And after Haley's boyfriend Dylan (the one who's allergic to mayonnaise) throws himself at the jungle lady, Manny's object of affection reveals a preference for taller, older men, ruining Manny's sweet little boy play.

Cameron has his own idea about what makes the best birthday ever: A clown.  Specifically a classically trained Auguste named Fizbo played by Uncle Cameron himself.  On the way to the party, Mitchell stops to get gas and gets bumped by an SUV driven by an asshole who refuses to apologize … until Fizbo barges out of the car and promises to twist him like a balloon animal, "so apologize to my boyfriend RIGHT NOW!"  Fitzbo is a clown of singular purpose and drive who immediately becomes the life of the party upon arrival.  But the clown unnerves Phil, who's really not afraid of anything — "I regularly drive through neighborhoods that have only recently been gentrified" — except clowns.  "My mother says it's because when I was a kid, I found a dead clown in the woods," he hazards as a guess regarding the source of the phobia.

And so inevitably, Haley releases a scorpion from the jungle lady's stash of creepy crawlies in order to get Dylan out of her clutches; the scorpion wanders out toward the Fizbo performance area; the clown flees, overturning the craft table with its stash of beads ("Let me know if you get low on supplies, I'll make a run back to the 1950's for you," Phil tells Claire); in the melee, the crossbow goes off and punctures the bouncy castle.  That's when Manny finds his romantic persona: man of action.  Zip line!  Remove shoes!  Rescue damsel in distress from collapsed inflatable!  Go back in for the balloon dog!

Luke slips on the beads, breaks his arm, and gets a cast that everyone can sign and that will start to smell after a few weeks.  Best birthday ever.  And best episode since the first couple.  Welcome back, Modern Family!

Stray observations:

- "Have he ever seen a good one?" Cameron asks Phil about Luke's experiences with clowns.  "Has anyone?" Phil responds.

- Manny's pre-birthday romantic overtures including having a milk sent over in the cafeteria.

- "You know what we're going to be making?" Claire enthuses about her craft table.  "Kids bored?" Phil guesses.

- "People are going to stare; they're not used to seeing one clown in a car."

- Christmas idea for me: foam something and nothing.

- Pulling out the giant clock after intimidating Gas Station Asshole to show that they're running late?  Biggest laugh of the night.  That's the Cam show for you.

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